Saturday to Sunday
November 19-20, 2016
One of the most curious peaks I’ve wanted to hike is the historical trail of Tirad pass. Every Filipino student knows of this place because it’s the location of the local version of the battle of Thermopylae. Here in the narrow trails of Ilocos Sur, the young General Gregorio del Pilar and a handful of men fended off hundreds of American soldiers in order for Emilio Aguinaldo to escape american hands. It was a delight to walk where true heroes died for our country, and here I will share the experience.
I’ve held off this hike for a while because of the distance. Ilocos Sur is a loooong bus ride away from the metro and with no one to contact about the logistics of the climb, I just cant waltz in there and demand a hike. Luckily for me, one of my friends hails from Ilocos and once she decided to set up a hike, I was all in at once.
To be honest, one more reason I wanted to hike Tirad was to avoid the influx of climbers once the Goyong movie is released. Those who watched Heneral Luna would know that they hinted at a Gregorio del Pilar movie at the end. So we decided to do it asap. And I’m very glad we did.
So with Jeka handling all the logistics, we started the adventure with a bus ride to Ilocos. I slept most of the journey because it was around 6 hours one way and I had nothing better to do. We alighted at the Candon square where our chartered jeep was waiting for us.
The jeep ride from Candon to Gregorio del Pilar was also a long one, but it was also eventful. It was mostly uphill up to the baranggay but it also went through wonderful and lush scenery straight out of Jurassic park. The jeep crossed lots of rivers of knee-deep water. It amazed me how clear the water was. Proof of how pure nature is when far away from civilization. I wondered if there were any crocodiles in the rivers, and yet I also wanted to stop the jeep and dive into the cool waters.
After the wet and wild part, it was more uphill driving and we saw the rice terraces of Gregorio del Pilar. We passed the baranggay hall and reached the highest point the jeep could go. There, we secured our guides and finally started our trek.
I thought that it was already the start of the hike but we were actually just walking up to the registration area. It was an uphill concrete road mixed with local trails up to the registration and by then i was already huffing and puffing. While there was no one at the registration area, there was fresh spring water which we used to refill our bottles. And after a few moments of rest, we started the official trek.
The actual hike was actually very relaxing. Being a national park, the trail was well established and easily hikeable even for non-active people. There were also lots of places to rest in.
The trail was also dotted with signs with information about Genereal Gregorio del Pilar. Trivias and stories retelling the encounter and heroism of the brave young general could be read. This helped me take my mind of the trek. And so, in less than two hours, we reached the campsite and shrine of Goyong.
Here we set up our camp and also took pictures of the statue of the general.
Since it was still a bit early, we contemplated going to the summit already, but our guides advised us not to bother because there wouldn’t be any clearing. So the group just decided to get some rest and prepare dinner. I immediately fell asleep in my hammock.
I woke up as the sun was already setting and dinner was being served. Socials began and the group ate and drank the night away. When all the alcohol was consumed we had our lights off.
We woke up very early for the summit assault. After a few cups of coffee, we started the trek. It was still dark and cool but I was so excited to reach the summit. The trail to the summit goes all around the mountain range and so, it was longer than the initial trek to the campsite. We also crossed a lot of streams with cold, running water. About two hours of trekking and we finally reached the final assault to the peak.
Here in this tiny ridge right before peak, I saw the most beautiful sunrise.
After the daybreak, we continued the climb to the peak and finally had our pictures taken.
We stayed there for a long time, admiring the views all around. There were so many peaks and ridges. I have to say, this is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to.
Finally, we started our descent. It was easier now that there was sunlight, but on the open parts of the trail, the sun was hot on our skin.
Back at the campsite, we had breakfast and afterwards, we started our packing up.
The hike down was quick, because we had already seen everything the day before. So it was pretty straightforward. At the jumpoff, our chartered jeepney was already waiting for us. We rode the same route all the way back to Candon. Finally, I was finished with Tirad Pass!
Back at Candon, we said goodbye to the couple in our group as they went ahead to return to Manila. The rest went straight to Jeka’s place in Ilocos and we had a wonderful lunch, hosted by her grandmother. Weeeeeeee Food! Then we went to the nearby beach and jumped off the pier and took pictures of the sunset!
Afterwards, we had the famous Ilocos empanadas and then it was back to Jeka’s to wash up and some good, clean alcohol! As Sunday came to an end and Monday loomed suspiciously near, we boarded the bus back to Cubao. I was asleep the whole way and woke up Monday morning as the bus dropped us off back in the Metro.
- 08:40 ETD Candon via chartered jeepney
- 10:20 ETA Jumpoff, Start trek to registration area
- 10:45 ETA Registration Area
- 12:20 ETA Shrine and campsite, break camp, socials
- 03:45 Start Trek to summit
- 05:45 Tirad ridge, Sunrise viewing
- 06:15 ETA Tirad Peak, photo-ops
- 06:55 ETD Tirad Peak
- 08:45 ETA Shrine, breakfast and pack up
- 10:30 ETD Shrine
- 11:15 ETA Registration Area
- 11:30 ETA Jumpoff, chartered jeepney to Candon
- 13:30 ETA Candon
- There are water sources along the trail to the Shrine and at the Shrine itself
- It is possible to do a dayhike if one keeps rest to a minimum, but I recommend an overnight just to see the sunrise
- The trail to the peak is made of lose soil and rocks so be careful where you put your weight
Thank you Jeka, for setting this hike up and for the accommodations in Ilocos. You have a very beautiful province and I’ll surely return again. Sulit ang biyahe!
To all my hikemates for the whole experience. Perlin, Jim, Eumie, Picoy, Ron, RJ, and kuya Dex. It was nice to meet you guys and share a night of alcohol and tuna with you. Until our next hike!
And most thanks to the big Guy for the good weather and the perfect time and conditions to once again visit your creation. Tirad pass is really one of the most beautiful mountains I’ve been to.